Q: I'm pinching pennies-how can I use the Internet to save money and justify the cost of the service?
Tough economic times mean cutbacks, and many families may be feeling the weight of Internet service costs, which average about $40 a month. Before you pull the plug, consider how these Internet sites and programs can help you manage your budget, save money and rationalize your Internet bill.
Thrive and Mint.com allow you to pool all your accounts in one place to get a full financial picture and offer budgeting and saving tools, along with reminders and alerts when you are charged fees or have low banking balances. Want to create a budget? PearBudget offers a simple Web-based budgeting tool that takes just 10 minutes to set up and offers a free 30-day trial-after that, it's a budget-friendly $3 a month.
FatWallet.com and RetailMeNot.com both offer updates on best deals and coupon codes for purchases. CheapTweet finds thousands of deals being talked about on Twitter, and you don't have to have a Twitter account to use it. CouponPrintster.com allows you to choose from dozens of daily coupons and print them at home for groceries and more. Also, check out group-buying sites (Groupon, LivingSocial and Plum District), which e-mail daily deals offered at a pre-pay discount.
If you do have to pull the plug on your home Internet access to save money, you can find free access on computers at most public libraries across the country. Laptop owners can also take advantage of free Internet Wi-Fi access at Barnes & Noble, Borders, Panera Bread, Starbucks and McDonald's, to name just a few. Find more free hotspots at Wi-Fi Free Spot.
Sharon Cindrich is a mother of two tech-savvy kids from Virginia Beach. Learn more at sharoncindrich.com.
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